Islam's evolutionary legacy





Last month, scientists from around the world partied into the small hours on the 200th anniversary of the birth of Darwin.

But as we celebrate the work of one of the most influential scientists ever, let's take a moment or two to remember others who contributed ideas in the history of evolutionary thought. Many came from Britain as well as other countries in Europe. Others came from further afield, and their writings are increasingly coming to light thanks to the painstaking work of historians of science, and historians of ideas.

One of them is an East African writer based in Baghdad in the 9th century called al-Jahiz. In a book describing the characteristics of animals, he remarked:

“Animals engage in a struggle for existence, and for resources, to avoid being eaten, and to breed.” He added, “Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming them into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to their offspring.”



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